Online Shopping and Traditional Shopping

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An Empirical Investigation of Online Consumer
Purchasing Behavior
Manju Ahuja, Babita Gupta, and Pushkala Raman
This article is focused on examining the factors and relationships that influence the browsing and buying behavior of individuals when they shop online. Specifically, we are interested in individual buyers using business-to-consumer sites. We are also interested in examining shopping preferences based on various demographic categories that might exhibit distinct purchasing attitudes and behaviors for certain categories of products and services. We examine these behaviors in the context of both products and services.

After a period of decline in recent months, online shopping is on the rise again. By some estimates, total U.S. spending on online sales increased to $5.7 billion in December 2001 from $3.2 billion in June of 2001 [3, 5]. By these same estimates, the number of households shopping online increased to 18.7 million in December 2001 from 13.1 million in June 2001. Consumers spent an average of $304 per person in December 2001, compared with $247 in June 2001. According to an analyst at Forrester: “The fact that online retail remained stable during ... such social and economic instability speaks volumes about how well eCommerce is positioned to stand up to a poor economy” [4].

What do consumers utilize the Internet for? Nie and Erbring suggest that 52% of the consumers use the Internet for product information, 42% for travel information, and 24% for buying [9]. Recent online consumer behavior-related research refers to any Internet-related activity associated with the consumption of goods, services, and information [6]. In the definition of Internet consumption, Goldsmith and Bridges include “gathering information passively via exposure to advertising; shopping, which includes both browsing and deliberate information search, and the selection and buying of specific goods, services, and information” [7]. For the purposes of this study, we focus on all aspects of this consumption. We include all of them because information gathering aspects of e-commerce serve to educate the consumer, which is ultiManju K. Ahuja (mahuja@indiana.edu) is an assistant professor of Management Information Systems at The Kelley School of Business, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN. Babita Gupta (babita_gupta@csumb.edu) is an associate professor of Management Information Systems at California State University, Monterey Bay, CA.

Pushkala Raman (praman@cob.fsus.edu) is an assistant professor of Marketing at Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL.
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COMMUNICATIONS OF THE ACM December 2003/Vol. 46, No. 12ve

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mately in the interest of the online shopping industry. Further, the knowledge that consumers may be using a site for research purposes only may imply that the Web sites in this industry are not able to meet the consumer needs adequately. Similarly, both researchers and practitioners may be interested in learning whether consumers are using the Internet solely for collecting information or for purchasing specific types of products as well. Thus, online consumer behavior is of interest to consumer theorists and practitioners. Researchers may wish to examine how existing theories of consumer behavior can be applied to online consumer behavior. Practitioners are likely to be interested in examining aspects of consumer needs their sites are unable to fulfill. Thus, our findings should help the managers design online marketing strategies aimed at attracting consumers who do not yet shop online, as well...
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